Introduction: Encrypted Floppy Drive

Picture of Encrypted Floppy Drive

Floppy disks. Everyone has them, but nobody uses them anymore. It made me think that there has to be some way to use them to store secret data on the cheap.

I accidentally stumbled over the answer when I was dissecting a dead floppy drive. Here's what I found.

Step 1: Opening the Drive

Picture of Opening the Drive

Each floppy drive is held together by a combination of screws and clips.

Before you open it, you'll usually need to remove the front panel.

After the front panel is off, you need to remove the screws, then open it carefully not to bend the metal at the clips.

Step 2: Encrypting

Picture of Encrypting

Once the drive is open, you'll see two write heads. each one is attached to the drive by a flexible PCB (Printed Circuit Board).

You need to carefully remove each one from it's socket, and equally carefully plug each one into the other's socket.

Then, all that's left is closing it back up and plugging it in.

It will register standard floppy disks as unformatted, and once you format a disk with it, a regular drive will register that disk as unformatted.


The Lost Puppy (author)2017-08-02

I think that this is such a neat idea and that if I were to do it, I would need to convert 2 disk drives into this with a simple mod. Before I do that though I am wondering if there is any chance that the one ribbon cable you have to cross over the other one will potentially damage it with lots of use.

Cody. (author)2016-02-07

Alternatively, you can just encrypt them with Truecrypt. That's what I do.

mhippo (author)Cody.2016-02-08

software encryption is less useful by virtue of being widely used. Truecrypt can (like any other encryption software) be cracked given the computing power and time. hardware encryption is less widespread, therefore less likely to be attempted.

Cody. (author)mhippo2016-02-08

Yeah, that's true. You could do multiple layers of encryption, though. Like compressing the files in an encrypted zip, in a software encrypted floppy disk, that was also hardware encrypted.

sara.juniorjames.7 (author)2014-09-06

Nobody uses them any more. Everyone has moved on to USB drives. Our data is at risk more now than ever. The simple solution to the problem of data breach that has been very popular is "encryption". I use encrypted USB software Data Protecto and it has been good to me.

I use floppy disks. Mainly because my favorite old computer uses them. This is an interesting idea, however, and could be a valid way to keep data you want to stay secret.

The fact that nobody uses them is half the reason to do it this way. The other half, is that people think to look for software encryption. Hardware encryption is something people don't use, and therefore don't look for.

Any encryption can be cracked, the question is only how much computational power is needed.

lemonie (author)2009-06-04

"nobody uses them anymore" - have you any ideas for using this hack?


mhippo (author)lemonie2011-05-10

The fact that few people use the floppy drive anymore means that your data is *more* secure rather than less. They're still widely available (both the drive/connections and the disks) but it's less likely that someone would even look twice at one of them. Only if someone really wants what you have on that disk will it reach the point of the encryption working, and then they're less likely to format the disk and lose your data.

Kasm279 (author)lemonie2010-08-18

My Macintosh SE boots from an 800k floppy disk!

lemonie (author)Kasm2792010-08-18

wow, but why?


Kasm279 (author)lemonie2010-08-18

Because I don't want to take the SCSI hard drive out :D

lemonie (author)Kasm2792010-08-19

it wont boot off the SCSI?


Kasm279 (author)lemonie2010-08-19

I mean, i don't want to take it off the shelf, set the SE on it, and plug the cables in :\

mhippo (author)lemonie2009-06-06

Yes. It can easily store anything less than 1 MB in size. Easily used for text files, and such.

lemonie (author)mhippo2009-06-06

I appreciate that, and a few images. If it's a standard double-sided double-density disc don't you get 1.44Mb formatted? And do you use this for anything? L

mhippo (author)lemonie2009-06-07

yeah, it's 1.44 Mb, I said one Mb because I was in a hurry. In fact, if your computer supports compression you can even get as much as double that. I used to use it quite a lot. More recently I drifted away because my current computer doesn't have an available floppy bay.

lemonie (author)mhippo2009-06-07

Oooh - no 5 1/4? Mine came with a card-reader, I'm a bit surprised about that.


mhippo (author)lemonie2009-06-07

Technically, mine has one 3.5 bay' but my card reader needed it, so no floppy. What's the 5.25 got to do with it?

lemonie (author)mhippo2009-06-07

Ooops I meant 3.5, it's just that I've got a 5.25 floppy as well, I got them confused. L

mhippo (author)lemonie2009-06-07

In that case, I guess I answered your question...

dread (author)2010-12-12

This reminds me of the floppy I used to have that needed to have its speed adjusted (by hand) using a potentiometer exposed on its outside. This was around '82 or something. When I saw this that's what I was thinking at first. That was long ago and new floppies set their own read/write speed automatically. I remember having written a bunch of data to floppies at an "incorrect" speed once I purchased a bunch of games. I could only read the game disks at the proper speed, but need to adjust it back to my speed to read my old data. What a pain. Basically the same concept though, although in my case done by accident.

zack247 (author)2010-03-04

you should experiment with those small cds so you can make the floppy hold more information, by putting the small cd disc into teh area where the floppy "plate" went and then modifying the drive so it can read it

mhippo (author)zack2472010-05-09

That would be some serious modding, if it's even possible. The media are incompatible, as one is magnetic (the floppy) and the other is laser.

zack247 (author)mhippo2010-05-10

well, in theory, you could try using the internals of a mini-disc reader, and put that into the floppy drive housing. thus making it read mini-cds and still look like a floppy drive.

PeachPie (author)2009-08-30

Haha Thats a pretty intuitive idea, although it would be very limited access for you, especially if your on the go.

mhippo (author)PeachPie2009-10-06

I've never tried this, but the same trick should work on a USB floppy drive, for all your on-the-go needs.

twocvbloke (author)2009-07-02

Interesting mod, though if you had some sensitive data stored on an "encrypted" floppy, then someone tried to read it on an regular drive, you'd lose said data if they clicked "OK" on formatting it... :( I have a USB floppy drive, and assuming I can find a working disk (one that hasn't been subjected to nothing, resulting in it just failing as they do!!!) so I can use Norton Ghost on one of my laptops which doesn't support USB stick booting (but supports USB Floppy booting, what the difference is, I don't know!!!)... :)

mhippo (author)twocvbloke2009-07-05

Better to lose the data then to have it fall into enemy hands, no?

twocvbloke (author)mhippo2009-07-05

I like my data, it's a comfort... :)

munchman (author)2009-06-08

I added this to the floppy disks group, and am about do it

zuixro (author)2009-06-04

Very cool, but I'll argue that it's not encrypted.

mhippo (author)zuixro2009-06-07

If you'd like to offer a different definition, I'll consider it.

PKM (author)zuixro2009-06-05
I don't know, you could argue that this is a simple hardware-based cypher. I'm not sure how the two write heads interact, but you could imagine it as the equivalent of chopping up a written sentence into pairs of letters and flipping the characters.

That's probably a gross simplification of what this drive modification does, but I'd guess it's not too far off- it might be swapping at the track level rather than by character but the principle is the same. I wonder if you could persuade an unmodified disk drive to read one of these disks? It would probably need some software hackery, but it would be an interesting project if it's possible.

Anyway, maybe I have something to do with the two floppy drives I have kicking around- give one to my g/f and swap secret messages :P
mhippo (author)PKM2009-06-06

It seems like an interesting project, making a software hack for similar results. Let me know if you manage.

Joe Martin (author)2009-06-04

Very very clever!

Bongmaster (author)2009-06-04

simple but effective ;)

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